ZAGREB : Croatia’s 93-year-old former interior minister went on trial Wednesday charged with ordering the killing of 21 civilians at the end of World War II.
Josip Boljkovac, who pleaded not guilty, is the first former Communist official to be tried for crimes allegedly committed during World War II since Croatia proclaimed independence from the former Yugoslavia.
He is accused of being responsible, as a member of the OZNA partisan communist secret services, for the detention and killing of 21 civilians accused of collaborating with Croatia’s Nazi-allied Ustasha regime. His lawyer Anto Nobilo said the defence did not deny the crime took place, but “claims that Boljkovac is not guilty”.
If found guilty, Boljkovac, who arrived at the Zagreb court in a wheelchair, faces up to 20 years in jail.
He was Croatia’s first interior minister after it proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
He is a former member of the main opposition HDZ party, which has promised to investigate and punish crimes committed by communists and partisans, a move seen as an attempt to attract right-wing voters.